We can do better to recycle more: Our members are proving it
Environmental stewardship and sustainability aren’t routinely spoken in the same breath as the plastics and chemicals industries in general circles. But as members of the Pennsylvania Chemical Industry Council (PCIC) are proving, they should be. Our industry is leading the charge with innovations in circular manufacturing, production, and advanced recycling to create a more sustainable, energy-efficient future.
The concept of recycling is a noble cause. The challenge is that around 10% of the plastics we throw in our recycling bins at home actually end up being recycled. The rest ends up in landfills, burned in incinerators, or worse. And in some instances, Pennsylvanians don’t have a viable option to recycle at all. However, the issue isn’t with plastics, it's how we manage plastic waste. We need to take a hard look at modernizing Pennsylvania’s recycling laws.
The hard truth for many is that calls to ban all plastics are misguided and, frankly, not grounded in reality. Chemicals and plastics are indispensable to modern life. Chemistry is essential for nearly every medical and healthcare product we use, ranging from life-saving equipment and infection-protection materials to PPE, disinfectants and sanitizers, and pharmaceutical ingredients. Harnessing renewable energy sources, building more fuel-efficient cars, and designing energy-smart buildings, all rely on chemicals and plastics. It’s also necessary for food packaging and preservation, electronics, clothing, and much more.
We all depend upon plastics in our daily lives, but the challenge of plastic waste is growing. Long-proven advanced recycling technologies, which only recently became economically viable, transform plastics into base materials that can be used to create new products, fuels, and materials. This includes new advances to tackle hard-to-recycle plastics.
In 2020, Pennsylvania passed advanced recycling legislation, which positioned the commonwealth as a leader among states in this burgeoning nationwide industry. This legislation is a great start and we are already seeing it yield positive results. In fact, many of our members are ahead of the curve in establishing aggressive goals to use recycled chemicals as inputs for making new products and we are starting to see announced investments in advanced recycling manufacturing facilities statewide.
While the bipartisan advanced recycling legislation was a foundational step, there is still more work to do. For instance, a lot has changed since 1988, when Pennsylvania’s recycling law, Act 101, was passed. It’s time for Pennsylvania’s leaders to take a hard look at modernizing how the Commonwealth and its municipalities are tackling recycling. This will be a challenge, but the alternative of continuing the status quo is no longer a viable option.
Our PCIC members prove each and every day that balancing environmental stewardship and economic growth through investment, technology, and innovation is not only possible, it’s happening.
We look forward to working with Pennsylvania leaders to advance positive changes to increase recycling opportunities and tackle our plastic waste challenges.
Steven Kratz, President
Pennsylvania Chemical Industry Council